Review: ‘A Taste of Hunger,’ starring Katrine Greis-Rosenthal and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

March 5, 2022

by Carla Hay

Katrine Greis-Rosenthal and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in “A Taste of Hunger” (Photo by Henrik Ohsten/Magnolia Pictures)

“A Taste of Hunger”

Directed by Christoffer Boe (also known as Mr. Boe)

Danish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Copenhagen, Demark, the dramatic film “A Taste of Hunger” features an all-white cast representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A husband and a wife, who own a successful upscale restaurant, have their marriage put at risk when someone anonymously sends a note revealing the wife’s extramarital affair.

Culture Audience: “A Taste of Hunger” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching relationship dramas that have mystery and intrigue.

Flora Augusta and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in “A Taste of Hunger” (Photo by Henrik Ohsten/Magnolia Pictures)

Even though “A Taste of Hunger” centers on a couple who own a restaurant together, the movie is really about what people will do to achieve their definition of success, and how ambition can turn into an unquenchable obsession. It’s a well-acted and thoughtfully written story with plenty of suspense and mystery over who is trying to ruin the marriage of the movie’s central couple. “A Taste of Hunger” shows in nuanced ways how a type-written note is really a symptom, not the catalyst, of this couple’s problems.

Christoffer Boe (also known as Mr. Boe) directed “A Taste of Hunger” and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Tobias Lindholm. The movie takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark, and doesn’t waste time showing that someone wants to expose infidelity in the marriage of successful restaurateurs Maggie (played by Katrine Greis-Rosenthal) and Carsten (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who co-own a sleek, upscale restaurant called Malus. Maggie is the restaurant manager, while Carsten is the executive chef.

The movie opens by showing Maggie and Carsten in a seemingly happy and passionate marriage. One evening, while the restaurant is closed, they discuss an elaborate decoration that they plan to put display at one of the restaurant tables that’s meant to be showstopper at the center of the restaurant. Later, Maggie and Carsten meet up at a bar. She tells him seductively, “I really crave dick when I’ve had whiskey sour.” Viewers later find out that this comment about whiskey sour is a foreplay joke for the couple, and it’s a comment that’s mentioned more than once throughout the movie.

While on this date, Maggie and Carsten are in their car, and they have an amorous moment where she’s about to give him oral sex. But then, they get a call from a restaurant employee that there’s a man dining by himself who could be a Michelin reviewer, based on his actions during this meal. There’s been a rumor going around the Copenhagen restaurant scene that a reviewer for the prestigious Michelin Guide has recently been dining at restaurants in the city.

Michelin reviewers, whose identities are supposed to be a secret, tend to dine alone and pay in cash, so Maggie and Carsten assume that this customer is probably a Michelin reviewer. By the time they get to the restaurant, the diner has left. All the information that Maggie and Carsten have is a vague description of what he looks like. And even then, it’s not absolute proof that he’s a Michelin reviewer.

Just like many restaurateurs, Maggie and Carsten dream of having a restaurant that gets a Michelin star. Getting one Michelin star is considered a worthy accomplishment. Getting two Michelin stars makes a restaurant even more prestigious. Getting three Michelin stars (the highest rating) is the ultimate endorsement that’s reserved for restaurants that are considered the best of the best. Over the course of the movie, Maggie and Carsten’s ambition to get a Michelin star affects their actions in how they handle their business and their personal lives.

While Maggie and Carsten seem to be doing well with their restaurant and their marriage, their marriage is actually in trouble. An anonymous person is seen typing something on a computer: “Your wife loves someone else.” One day when Maggie is at the restaurant, she sees a stack of mail with a folded note on top. The note, which address to Carsten, was not sent through a postal service because there’s no envelope, mailing address or stamp for the note. The note was placed there by someone who had access to the restaurant and knew where the mail was kept.

Even though the note is addressed to Carsten, Maggie opens up the folded paper to read the note. And that’s when she sees the words that horrify her: “Your wife loves someone else.” Someone knows about her secret affair and wants to tell Carsten. This threat to expose the affair comes at a bad time because Carsten and Maggie are about to be interviewed for a high-profile article about them and the success of Malus.

In addition, Carsten and Maggie desperately want to get a Michelin star for the restaurant. Maggie knows that an infidelity scandal could ruin the image that they’ve carefully crafted for themselves and the restaurant. And so, for most of the movie, Maggie tries to find out who sent that note before that person can find another way to expose Maggie’s infidelity.

On the surface, this story seems like it could just be enough for a short film. However, “A Taste of Hunger,” which is told in a non-linear way, shows a lot of flashbacks to give background information on how Maggie and Carsten met, fell in love, got married, started a family, and decided to open their own restaurant. The editing of this backstory is done in such an engrossing way that it won’t confuse or bore viewers. The flashbacks (which also reveal the identity of Maggie’s lover) put the present-day situation of Maggie and Carsten in better context so viewers have a better understanding of why the stakes are so high for this couple.

Maggie and Carsten met when she was at a house party, and Carsten was a caterer chef in the kitchen. At the time, Carsten and his older brother Torben (played by Nicolas Bro) co-owned a small catering business, but the two brothers often clashed with other in decision making. For example, at this party, Torben is upset and yelling at Carsten because they agreed to the client’s request to serve sushi with “normal” rice and lots of chili mayonnaise. However, Carsten served something else that was in season.

In order not to upset the client, Torben orders a halt on what was about to be served to the guests, and he decides to go out and buy the necessary ingredients for the menu that the client requested. In the meantime, the party guests are waiting for food to be served. That’s why Maggie goes to the kitchen to see what’s going on and witnesses this angry dispute between Torben and Carsten.

Torben is also angry because he has to buy more food than expected, so the catering company will lose money on this party job. In order to save money, Torben orders Carsten to dismiss the two or three catering assistants who were hired to help at this party. Carsten apologetically tells the assistants that they will get paid for the time that they served, but he says it in a way that’s not very believable.

Maggie is a little inebriated when she first meets Carsten in the kitchen. When she strikes up a somewhat flirtatious conversation with him, there’s an instant mutual attraction. Maggie likes how Carsten seems to be a visionary chef who has his own ideas of what should be on a menu. She’s also a foodie, but she’s more interested in restaurant management than in being a chef.

Maggie knows that the party guests will eventually expect to be served food, so she offers to help. She suggests that drinks should be served in the meantime, so she helps Carsten make some drinks since she has experience as a bartender. They decide to make whiskey sour for the guests. It’s in this scene that viewers find out why whiskey sour has become a playful inside joke for Maggie and Carsten.

Carsten and Maggie quickly bond during this kitchen encounter. He opens up to her about his former mentor, a restaurant chef named Stellan (played by Dag Malmberg), whom Carsten worked with for 10 years until Stellan fired Carsten because Carsten wouldn’t follow Stellan’s orders. However, Carsten still has tremendous respect for Stellan, and he proudly shows Maggie a carving knife that Stellan gave to Carsten as a gift. Maggie sees that Carsten has an independent streak, so she tells Carsten that he’s too good to be a caterer and should be the chef of his own restaurant.

Some parts of Maggie and Carsten’s life are left out of the flashbacks, such as their wedding and the births of their two children. In the present day, Maggie and Carsten’s children are daughter Chloe (played by Flora Augusta), who’s about 7 or 8 years old, and son August (played by August Vinkel), who’s about 4 or 5 years old. Chloe likes to watch her father work in the kitchen and is perceptive and curious. However, August seems to be the favored child in the family. Maggie and Carsten think that August is pretty much close to perfect.

Of course, there came a point when Carsten and Torben agreed to no longer work together, but their brotherly relationship is still solid. Their catering company also went out of business, and Torben moved on to doing something else with his life. Some scenes in the movie show Carsten and Maggie having family get-togethers with Torben and his wife Pia (played by Maj-Britt Mathiesen) and their respective children.

In the present-day, Carsten is shown to be an almost stereotypical hard-driving chef, who will praise the staff when he’s satisfied with their service, but he doesn’t hesitate to belittle and humiliate his employees if he thinks they aren’t meeting his high standards. An early scene in the movie shows Carsten has a nasty temper. He’s yelling at the kitchen staff because a meal was sent back by a customer. Carsten tastes the meal and finds out it has over-fermented lemons. He throws a plate and shouts, “What is this shit?”

Carsten demands to know who’s responsible for over-fermented lemons being served to a customer. An employee named Frank (played by Rasmus Hammerich) sheepishly admits that he didn’t taste the meal before it was sent out to the customer. Carsten immediately fires Frank in front of the rest of the staff. Carsten later informs the staff that a Michelin reviewer could be in the restaurant at any time and that there better not be any more mistakes. “A Taste of Hunger” shows other signs that Carsten has become a workaholic at the expense of his personal relationships.

Meanwhile, the movie throws in some additional drama over a health concern of Maggie’s where she has to gets testing done for this health issue and finds out the results from a doctor. Flashbacks also show Carsten’s interactions with his former mentor Stellan. And when Carsten became a restaurateur, Carsten was a mentor to a sous chef named Frederik (played by Charlie Gustafsson), who’s in his early-to-mid-20s. Frederik no longer works at Malus and is currently working at another restaurant.

“A Taste of Hunger” has a few twists and turns to the story. However, since the movie already establishes from the beginning that whoever left the note has some type of access to the restaurant area where the mail is kept, the list of possible suspects is very short. Still, when it’s revealed who typed the note and delivered it, this person’s identity might be surprising to a lot of viewers.

All of the movie’s cast members give believable performances, but Greis-Rosenthal is the standout because she has to show the most emotional range out of all the characters. It’s because Maggie is the one who has to “keep up appearances” while frantically trying to find out who wrote the note and if that person will do something else to expose the affair—all while feeling pressure over the possibility that Malus is going to be reviewed by Michelin. Maggie shows that she’s willing to go to certain extremes to hide her secrets, so her character is unpredictable, in terms of what she will do next.

There are certain parts of the movie where Maggie tries to find out the identity of the Michelin reviewer. Maggie’s search for the Michelien reviewer is actually one of the few weak aspects of the movie. Michelin reviewers go to great lengths to keep their identities secret and would deny being a reviewer if confronted by an over-eager person who has a vested interest in getting a positive review. Maggie should know this already, but it doesn’t stop her from wasting a lot of time trying to find the reviewer in Copenhagen.

As for Maggie trying to find out who wrote the exposé note about her affair, she immediately suspects that the lover in her extramarital affair is responsible for the note, but this person denies sending the note when Maggie confronts this person. Maggie becomes increasingly agitated and paranoid about finding out who wants to expose the affair. Regardless of who sent the note, Maggie experiences a reckoning where she has to face the harsh reality of why she cheated on Carsten in the first place.

In addition to being a stylish-looking film—the movie’s production design of Malus is gorgeous, as is any scene involving the display of restaurant food—”A Taste of Hunger” offers an insightful dissection and observation of a marriage that looks strong and healthy on the outside but is troubled and crumbling on the inside. On a deeper level, the movie also effectively shows that when people get everything that they think they want in life, it doesn’t always make them happy. Viewers of the movie should watch for the end-credits scene, which gives the story’s conclusion a different tone than what was shown before the end credits.

Magnolia Pictures released “A Taste of Hunger” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on January 28, 2022.

Review: ‘Flee,’ starring Amin Nawabi

December 13, 2021

by Carla Hay

Amin Nawabi in “Flee” (Image courtesy of Neon)

“Flee”

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

In Danish, Dari and Russian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Afghanistan, Denmark, Russia, Estonia and Sweden, the animated documentary “Flee” features a group of Middle Eastern people and white European people (in animated form) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A real-life Afghan man, who happens to be gay and living in Denmark, tells the harrowing story of what he and his family have experienced as refugees. 

Culture Audience: “Flee” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in unconventional and emotionally impactful movies about the Afghan refugee crisis.

Jonas Poher Rasmussen and Amin Nawabi in “Flee” (Image courtesy of Neon)

There have been many documentaries and news reports about the devastating traumas experienced by Afghan refugees and other people affected by war and political unrest in Afghanistan. But “Flee” is perhaps one of the most unforgettable and emotionally moving accounts that someone can see in a movie. At first glance, it might seem that telling this story in the format of an animated movie might lessen the impact, but it does not. In many ways, it increases the impact because animation can do things that actors and real-life locations cannot do in a recreation. Animation can add visuals to enhance the tone and meaning of the storytelling.

“Flee” (directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen) uses a real-life audio interview of a Syrian refugee named Amin Nawabi (which is an alias) telling his life story, and the movie recreates what he says through animation. Based on what he says in the interview, Nawabi was born in the early 1980s. He did not want to appear on camera for the documentary, and he did not want to use his real name, out of lingering fear that he and his family members would be targeted for persecution. And so, Rasmussen suggested that the story be told through animation.

“Flee” had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize. The movie also made the rounds at several other international film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and DOC NYC. “Flee” has gotten overwhelmingly positive responses at every film festival where it has been. It’s the type of movie that audiences will most likely discover through recommendations, rather than through a flashy marketing campaign.

At the time of the documentary interviews for “Flee,” Nawabi (who is openly gay) was living in Demark’s capital city of Copenhagen and was engaged to marry his Danish boyfriend Kasper, who is occasionally heard in parts of the movie. Nawabi and Kasper were also looking for a new place to live in Copenhagen. The movie includes Nawabi’s account of his “coming out” journey as a gay man in environments where homophobia is rampant and often sanctioned by the government.

Rasmussen has known Nawabi since they were teenagers who went to the same high school. They met when Rasmussen was 15, and Nawabi was living in a foster home in “my sleepy Danish hometown,” according the Rasmussen’s director’s statement in the production notes for “Flee.” Rasmussen can be heard asking some questions in “Flee” during the interview process.

The rest of the voices in the movie are actors portraying the people who are talked about in Nawabi’s narration. Other names have been changed to protect people’s privacy and identities. All of this is explained in the beginning of the movie, so that audiences know that although the names have been changed, and actors are providing most of the voices, it’s a true story based on a real person’s narrative account.

“Flee” begins with Rasmussen asking Nawabi: “What does ‘home’ mean to you?” Nawabi answers, “Home? It’s someplace safe. Somewhere you know you can stay, and you don’t have to move on. It’s not someplace temporary.” It’s that feeling of permanent safety that Nawabi says he has been seeking for most of his life so far.

Nawabi begins by talking about his earliest childhood memories when he was living in Kabul, Afghanistan. He describes being the youngest child in his family and being raised by a loving and attentive mother. His older siblings are brothers Saif and Abbas and sisters Fahima and Sabia. Amin remembers that, as early as 3 or 4 years old, he would wear his sisters’ nightgowns in public. “I think I always had a tendency to be a little bit different,” Amin says.

In “Flee,” the voice actors that portray the family members are Daniel Karimyar (the voice of Amin, ages 9 to 11); Fardin Mijdzadeh (the voice of Amin, ages 15 to 18); Milad Eskandari (the voice of Saif, at age 8); Elaha Faiz (the voice of Fahima, ages 13 to 18); Zahra Mehrwaz (the voice of Fahima, at age 28); and Sadia Faiz (the voice of Sabia, ages 16 to 26). Many of the voice actors in the cast are listed as “Anonymous” in the end credits. It’s probably an indication that they also fear retribution for being involved in telling this story.

Amin’s father Akhtar Nawabi was a pilot, but he died tragically. He was killed because he was considered to be a threat to the Communist government, according to Amin. He also says that his mother told him that Ahktar was one of 3,000 people who were rounded up in a day raid and imprisoned. Most of the people didn’t make it out alive from their imprisonment.

According to what Amin’s mother told him, Akhtar was expecting this raid. Akhtar’s family was able to visit him in jail. But then, three months later, he disappeared and was never seen alive again. The family’s life was never the same. And things continued to get worse for them.

“Flee” intersperses the animation with occasional real-life archival footage of news events going on during the times that are described by Amin in his story, which is told in chronological order. There’s disturbing footage of the Taliban invading villages in Afghanistan. There’s also footage of then-Afghanistan president Mohamad Najibullah saying that Afghanistan could be the U.S.’s next Vietnam if the U.S. chooses to interfere in the conflict. (Najibullah was assassinated in 1996.)

Under all of this chaos and strife, Amin and his mother were forced to separate from the rest of the family, and they both fled to Moscow together in the early 1990s. The rest of Amin’s story is a painful and horrifying account of long family separations; living in poverty; and being detained, shunned or incarcerated for being refugees. Amin also details Abbas’ struggles to earn enough money to pay for human traffickers to smuggle family members over certain borders, with the hope of having everyone reunited. Fahima and Sabia experienced nightmarish abuse from evil and corrupt human traffickers.

The Nawabi family’s journey separates them and takes them down different paths in various countries, such as Russia, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark. There’s a part of the story where Amin confesses that in order to get through certain national borders, he had to lie and say that all of his immediate family members are dead. He fears that this lie will come back to haunt him and might affect his current immigration status.

Although this story is told primarily in an animation format, there’s no mistaking the real rollercoaster of emotions that can be heard in Amin’s voice when he tells the story. The wonderfully expressive animation also conveys the emotions of the characters. The voice actors also do an admirable job in their roles.

At times, the interview setting is recreated, as Amin is shown being so overwhelmed when telling his story, he has to lie down on a carpet at some point, just like a therapy patient lying down on a couch during a therapy session. Because make no mistake: The interview does start to be like a therapy session, with a lot of raw emotions and excruciating memories.

Although there’s so much sadness in Amin’s personal story, there is also some joy. His experiences with coming out as gay weren’t easy, but he describes finding acceptance about his sexuality in some unexpected places. Amin says he knew he was gay since he was about 5 or 6 years old. One of his earliest celebrity crushes was actor Jean-Claude Van Damme.

One of the funniest parts of the movie is how Amin describes his family’s surprising reaction when he told them that he’s gay. He also talks about what it was like to live in a country for the first time where he didn’t have to worry about being arrested for being gay. And, of course, Amin finding true love with Kasper is an indication that this documentary is not completely depressing.

Like all relationships, there are some challenges in Amin and Kasper’s romance. During the making of this documentary, Amin (who is highly educated) was invited by a Princeton University professor to complete Amin’s post-doctoral studies at Princeton. Therefore, Amin and Kasper had to have a long-distance relationship for a while. It took a toll on their romance, and it tested the strength of their commitment to each other.

“Flee” is not the most technically dazzling animated movie you’ll ever see. The movie is not a fun-filled adventure, like most animated films are. However, “Flee” is one of the best animated films you’ll ever see, because the true story behind it is so powerfully moving, it will have an impact on you that you will never forget.

Neon released “Flee” in select U.S. cinemas on December 3, 2021.

Review: ‘Another Round,’ starring Mads Mikkelsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang and Thomas Bo Larsen

April 18, 2021

by Carla Hay

Mads Mikkelsen in “Another Round” (Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films)

“Another Round”

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Danish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in Demark, the dramatic film “Another Round” features a predominantly white cast (with a few black people and South Asian people) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Four middle-aged men, who are friends and teachers at the same high school, decide to drink more alcohol as an experiment, but they begin to abuse alcohol, which causes problems in their lives.

Culture Audience: “Another Round” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching well-acted and realistic movies about alcoholism and how people deal with mid-life crises.

Mads Mikkelsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang and Thomas Bo Larsen in “Another Round” (Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films)

When there are movies about the culture of people who binge-drink alcohol in groups, the stories usually focus on young people who get into misadventures because of their drunken antics. The Danish dramatic film “Another Round” defies that stereotype with a compelling tale about four middle-aged men who become binge drinkers together. And these four pals find out how quickly their lives can be consumed by alcohol addiction.

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg (who co-wrote the screenplay with Tobias Lindholm), “Another Round” is more than just another mid-life crisis story. It’s a sharply observant commentary on what can happen when people are bored and unsatisfied with their lives, and they live in a society where heavy drinking is not only accepted, but it’s also encouraged. Anchored by exemplary performances from the primary actors, “Another Round” stands out as a highly unique film about the causes and effects of alcohol abuse.

That’s not to say that the filmmakers of “Another Round” have portrayed Denmark as a country with too many drunks. But it becomes clear from watching the film that the country has laws about drinking alcohol that are much more lenient than other countries. Denmark’s minimum legal age to drink alcohol in public is 18 years old, while children ages 17 and younger are legally able to drink alcohol in private settings, such as in homes.

It’s in this alcohol-permissive society that viewers meet the four friends who are at the center of the story. They all work as teachers in the same high school in an unnamed city in Demark. And they are all experiencing some kind of dissatisfaction with their lives, which leads them to make an unusual pact to drink enough to have at least a 0.05% alcohol level in their blood every day.

The four friends are:

  • Martin (played by Mads Mikkelsen), who is in his mid-50s, is a history teacher at the school. He and his wife Anika (played by Maria Bonnevie) have two sons together: Jonas (played by Magnus Sjørup) is about 16 or 17, while Kasper (played by Silas Cornelius Van) is about 14 or 15.
  • Tommy (played by Thomas Bo Larsen), who is in his late 50s, is a physical education teacher at the school, and he also is a soccer coach for children in the 8-to-10-year-old age range in elementary school. Tommy is a bachelor with no children.
  • Peter (played by Lars Ranthe), who is in his early 50s, is a music teacher at the school. He is also a bachelor with no children.
  • Nikolaj (played by Magnus Millang), who celebrates his 40th birthday in the movie, is a psychology teacher at the school. He and his wife Amalie (played by Helene Reingaard Neumann) have three sons under the age of 8 years old, including a newborn.

Why are these men going through a mid-life crisis?

Martin and Anika’s marriage has become cold and distant, which also describes how Martin currently feels about teaching. His sons and his students don’t seem to respect him very much, since they barely listen to him. Viewers will get the impression that Martin has been in the same job for years without a promotion.

And recently, Martin has come under criticism by several of his students and their parents, who have a meeting with Martin to pressure him to bring their children’s grades up in the history class, so that their children can get into the universities of their choice. The parents want to blame Martin for not being a better teacher, but he answers defensively that maybe the students who are floundering just aren’t paying attention in class: “It’s not easy to learn when you’ve got your head stuck in your phone.”

Tommy is getting close to retirement age and he doesn’t have much to show for it except for his elderly dog and a house where he feels lonely. Out of all of the four friends, Tommy seems to care the least about what other people will think about him. He can be fun-loving, but he has a grouchy side to him too.

Peter laments that he hasn’t found his true love yet. He also expresses regret that he isn’t a parent. And he feels sad that his students (whom he sees somewhat as his surrogate kids) seem to forget about him after they graduate. Peter is the one in the group who is most likely to be sensitive to his students’ needs and is willing to give them extra help outside of class hours. There’s a subplot in the movie about Peter taking an interest in counseling and advising an anxiety-prone student named Sebastian (played by Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt), who’s feeling pressure to pass a certain class or else he will be held back from graduating for another year.

Nikolaj is frustrated (and sleep-deprived) by the demands of being a father of three very young children, which means that he has less free time to himself. His two older sons (who are bedwetters) sleep in the same bed with Nikolaj, while his wife has recently been sleeping in the same bed as the baby. A few of the movie’s more comical scenes are about bedwetting moments at Nikolaj’s house. And when Nikolaj is drunk, it’s not always the kids who are urinating in the bed.

One evening, the four buddies have a fateful dinner at a restaurant to celebrate Nikolaj’s 40th birthday. Nikolaj admits that he should be happy with his life: He has a beautiful and healthy family, he likes his job, his wife comes from a wealthy family, and they live in a nice seafront house. However, Nikolaj feels somewhat “trapped” by his routine life.

During this dinner party, it’s brought up in the conversation that the school’s faculty have heard that Martin is under scrutiny by parents of his students for not being an effective-enough teacher. Martin’s eyes starts to well up with tears, and his friends comfort him and ask him what’s really bothering him. He confesses that his marriage has gotten stale, he feels lonely, his kids don’t appreciate him, and he thinks he could have accomplished much more in his life. When someone asks Martin if he’s thought about having an affair, Martin replies that he’s not interested in cheating on Anika.

“I don’t know how I ended up like this,” Martin says with a defeated tone of voice. Peter mentions that years ago, Martin was expected to become a research professor at a university, but it never happened. Peter asks Martin why he didn’t live up to that potential. Martin says that at the time, his children were young and he just didn’t apply to grad school to get a Ph.D.

It’s also mentioned during the dinner that Martin used to take jazz ballet lessons. Tommy says that Martin’s dancing was so good, that Martin could have passed as a professional dancer. Martin endures some good-natured teasing from his pals, who try to get him to show some jazz ballet dance moves at the dining table. Martin laughs but ultimately refuses. However, since all of them have been drinking alcohol at this dinner, their inhibitions are lowered, and Tommy and Peter get up and briefly give separate dances at the table.

It’s at this dinner that Nikolaj comes up with an idea that will be the catalyst for the rest of the story: He talks about the real-life theory of Norwegian philosopher/psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who thinks that human beings are born with a blood deficiency of 0.05% alcohol. And therefore, it’s in people’s best interest to maintain at least 0.05% alcohol in their blood content every day. Skårderud believes that alcohol can generally make people more relaxed, more open to possibilities, and more creative.

Nikolaj suggests that they all try out this theory by drinking enough alcohol every day to have a constant blood alcohol content of at least 0.05%. They all go back to Nikolaj’s house to immediately begin testing the theory. Nikolaj goes to his computer to take notes, as if he’s taking this experiment seriously enough that he could write a research report about it. But over time, any “scientific research” that was intended quickly turns into excuses for the men to get drunk instead of tipsy.

That first night that they test the theory at Nikolaj’s place, he laces the drinks with absinthe. They all get “happy drunk” and have a good time. But the experiment requires that they drink during the day, which is something that Martin is uncomfortable with at first. They also have their own breathalyzers, and the movie has frequent on-screen indicators showing what their respective blood-alcohol levels are.

Eventually, all four men end up drinking while they’re on the job. They hide their liquor in the school’s gym depot that Tommy and only a few other school staffers have access to during regular school hours. It should come as no surprise that another school employee finds this secret stash of liquor. The movie shows what happens after this discovery.

At first, the four pals’ increased alcohol consumption seems to have positive effects. Martin becomes more confident and entertaining in his class. His enthusiasm is infectious to the point where he can get the entire class to laugh at his jokes. Martin and Anika also rekindle their love life, and it looks like the passion has returned to their marriage.

Tommy becomes a more jovial and motivational coach instead of being a grump with a tendency to give a lot of critiques. Peter comes up with more ideas to inspire his music students. Nikolaj also seems to be getting better results as a teacher, although he has the least number of movie scenes that show him as a teacher.

One day, Nikolaj is walking in the school hallway when he passes by Martin’s class and hears Martin’s students roaring with laughter at a joke that Martin told. Nikolaj looks surprised and a little envious. Not long after that, Nikolaj announces to the other three friends that all four of them should increase their blood-alcohol content as far as they can. It’s easy to guess what the results will be, but it’s no less riveting to watch.

“Another Round” takes place over the course of an academic school year (about nine months), and the movie shows how quickly alcohol abuse can turn into addiction. What started out as an experiment so that the men could gain confidence and creativity through alcohol turns into a dependency on alcohol where they start to lose control in major areas of their lives. Unlike their young students (who are shown binge drinking in the movie’s opening scene), the four middle-aged pals do not have the metabolism to bounce back as quickly from hangovers.

Their addiction to alcohol comes out in ways besides binge drinking. In their conversations, they start talking about famous drunks/alcoholics who excelled in their careers while they had a drinking problem. Martin and Nikolaj in particular like to come up with examples, as if to justify what they know is their own increasing addictions to alcohol. Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill are mentioned frequently in these discussions.

Martin also tries to ingratiate himself with his students during his class lectures, by mentioning alcohol binge drinking as an acceptable way to relax and be creative. He gets them to open up to the rest of the class about how much alcohol they drink on a weekly basis, and he doesn’t judge students who admit to excessive drinking. In fact, Martin jokes with them about their drinking habits.

And there’s a memorable scene where Martin asks the students which one of three unnamed political candidates they could vote for if they had the choice. He describes Candidate No. 1 as someone who has polio, drinks a lot, and cheats on his wife. Candidate No. 2 is an alcoholic who isn’t well-liked by his political peers and has already lost several elections. Candidate No. 3 almost never drinks, is kind to women, and has a reputation of being very focused on his job. Not surprisingly, the students say that they would vote for Candidate No. 3, until Martin reveals that Candidate No. 1 is Franklin D. Roosevelt, Candidate No. 2 is Winston Churchill, and Candidate No. 3 is Adolph Hitler.

In this scene where Martin points out that many powerful leaders were actually drunks, “Another Round” director Vinterberg shows a wry sense of humor by inserting some real-life video news montages or photos of world leaders drinking alcohol while on the job or appearing to be intoxicated in public. In photos, Angela Merkel is shown holding up a stein of beer; Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev are toasting each other with liquor. There’s also archival footage of Boris Yeltsin stumbling and slurring his words at government appearances.

“Another Round” realistically shows the highs and lows of what Martin, Peter, Tommy and Nikolaj experience as they have similar yet different reactions to their alcohol “experiment.” All of them get hooked on drinking alcohol every day, but two of the men want to quit the experiment after they see the negative effects of their alcohol dependency. Because the movie is mainly from Martin’s perspective, the movie gives the most screen time to how his alcohol addiction changes his life.

There are good times and bad times for all of the four friends. The alcohol makes them want to forget the bad times and create good times that they want to remember. However, the alcohol increasingly becomes the cause for the bad times. And that’s why the alcohol addiction (or any addiction) becomes a vicious cycle.

Mikkelsen’s fascinating portrayal of Martin is one that many viewers can find relatable, even without the alcohol addiction. It’s an outstanding performance of a character who sees himself as an “ordinary” person. One of the highlights of the film is a scene where Mikkelsen has to show a lot of impressive physical agility. What’s even more admirable is that Mikkelsen did not use any stunt/body doubles for this scene, according to the “Another Round” production notes.

“Another Round” doesn’t judge alcoholic behavior as much as it lays bare what attracts people to alcohol, how peer pressure plays a role in many alcohol addictions, and how people handle the problem of addiction differently, depending on the individual. The cinematography from Sturla Brandth Grøvlen adds realism to the movie, since the entire film was shot with hand-held cameras. Therefore, when Martin or some of the other characters are drunk, the camera sways along like an intoxicated person too, so viewers can almost experience what these characters are feeling in that particular scene.

What’s most authentic about “Another Round” is that it doesn’t follow a stereotypical narrative that movies tend to have when they’re about people who become alcoholics. Yes, the movie does show consequences to the reckless actions that happen because of alcohol intoxication. But even if something bad happens, it doesn’t necessarily make people want to suddenly stop drinking alcohol.

“Another Round” poses a lot of questions, knowing that there are no easy answers, because so much depends on the complexities of individuals. What’s the difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic? Can an alcoholic quit drinking without rehab or any counseling? At what point should someone get an “intervention”? Regardless of how people feel that about the ways that binge drinking and alcoholism are portrayed in “Another Round,” the movie succeeds in telling these characters’ stories in such an impactful way that it will make viewers think about these characters long after seeing the movie.

Samuel Goldwyn Films released “Another Round” in select U.S. cinemas on December 4, 2020, and on digital and VOD on December 18, 2020. The movie’s DVD release date was March 30, 2021. “Another Round” is also available for streaming on Hulu.

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